scientific revolution



We explain what the Scientific Revolution was, when it happened, what were its main contributions and the leading scientists.

Copernicus started the Scientific Revolution by explaining the movement of the stars.

What was the Scientific Revolution?

It is known by the name of Scientific Revolution to the drastic change in the model of thought that took place between the XV, XVI and XVII centuries, in the West, during the Modern age early. It forever transformed medieval views on the nature and the life. It laid the groundwork for the emergence of the science as we understand it today.

The Scientific Revolution was born in Europe at the end of the Renaissance. It was the fruit of new ideas regarding physical, astronomy, biology Y chemistry, and with them the change in the paradigm philosophical that produced the social and intellectual movement known as Illustration.

The exact dates of appearance of this phenomenon are debatable, but the year 1543 is generally taken as its starting point, when the masterpiece of Nicolás Copernicus was published. De revolutionibus orbium coelestium ("On the movements of the celestial orbs").

Similarly, its end is traditionally marked in 1632, when Galileo Galilei published his Dialogue about the massimi system of the Ptolemaic, and Copernican world ("Dialogues on the two greatest systems in the world: the Ptolemaic and the Copernican"), or with the publication of the Principle by Isaac Newton in 1687.

Background to the Scientific Revolution

For the Scientific Revolution to occur, it was necessary to overcome the obscurantism of the medieval era, during which faith and religion they ruled the thought of the West with an iron fist. The first step was when the classic legacy of the Antiquity, especially of the Greco-Latin culture. To this was added the contribution of medieval Islamic science.

This also required the appearance of the printing in the 15th century, which allowed the massification and democratization of knowledge. In addition, the bourgeoisie emerged as new social class that transformed the world. This class of merchants, of commoner origin but important material possessions, succeeded in abolishing the feudal order.

As you won can, the bourgeoisie forced the aristocracy to loosen their rules, and weakened the Church's fierce grip on the culture. However, many of the thinkers of the Scientific Revolution suffered persecution by the Catholic Inquisition, as is the famous case of Galileo, who was forced to publicly retract his revolutionary ideas.

On the other hand, the thought of the Greek philosopher Aristotle was in force at the beginning of the Scientific Revolution. The Aristotelian influence was one of the most difficult to break, especially his conception of the cosmos as a space in which the Earth it occupied the central place.

Thanks to the contributions of Eudoxus of Knidos and Claudius Ptolemy, a new vision of the cosmos was able to develop in the work of Nicolaus Copernicus, thus giving rise to the heliocentric model and a new era of thought.

Protagonists of the Scientific Revolution

Francis Bacon founded empiricism in the Scientific Revolution.

The main names of the Scientific Revolution were:

  • Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). A Polish Catholic jurist, mathematician, physicist and clergyman, he devoted much of his life to the astronomy, and reformulated in his own way the Heliocentric theory of Solar system, initially formulated by Aristarco de Samos. With the publication of his work on the movement of the stars it started the Scientific Revolution, contravening centuries of repetition of the Aristotelian geocentric model.
  • Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). Italian astronomer, physicist, musician, mathematician and engineer, is the great example of the Renaissance man, dedicated equally to the Arts and the Sciences. It was an important observer astronomical, for which he also improved the manufacture of telescopes, and is famous for his decisive support to the Copernican formulation of the Solar System. He is considered the father of the physical modern.
  • Isaac Newton (1643-1727). English physicist, theologian, philosopher, alchemist, inventor and mathematician, author of the first great treatise on modern physics, his Philosophia naturalis principia mathematica or "mathematical principles of natural philosophy", a work that revolutionized the physical understanding of the world and laid the foundations for the emergence of this science. Its principles on the movement, their thermodynamic laws and their formulations regarding optics and the infinitesimal calculus.
  • Tycho Brahe (1546-1601). Danish astronomer, considered the greatest observer of the sky before the invention of the telescope and founder of the first center for astronomical studies, Uraniborg. His work made it possible to consolidate the astronomical study in a systematic way and not through occasional observations.
  • Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). German astronomer and mathematician, famous for his laws on the motion of the celestial stars in his orbit around the Sun, was a close collaborator of Tycho Brahe and one of the fundamental names in modern astronomy.
  • Francis Bacon (1561-1626). Famous English philosopher, politician, lawyer and writer, considered the father of philosophical and scientific empiricism, since in his work De dignitate et augmentis scientiarumn ("On the dignification and progress of science"), described and laid the foundations for the construction of the experimental scientific method. He is one of the great pioneers of modern thought and one of the first essayists in England.
  • René Descartes (1596-1650). French philosopher, mathematician and physicist, father of the philosophy modern, of the analytic geometry, and one of the major contributors to the Scientific Revolution. Its beginning is famous Cogito ergo sum ("I think, therefore I am"), which would be essential in the emergence of rationalism, faith in reason and not in the divine will. His most famous work is the Discourse of the method , where he clearly broke with the traditional scholasticism of the Middle Ages.
  • Robert Boyle (1627-1691). Natural philosopher, Christian theologian, chemist, physicist and inventor of English origin, famous for his formulation of Boyle's Law, one of the principles that govern the behavior of gases. He is considered the first modern chemist in history, and his work The Sceptical Chymist ("The skeptical chemist") is a fundamental work in the history of this discipline.
  • William Gilbert (1544-1603). Natural philosopher and English physician, pioneer in the study of magnetism, as evidenced by his work By Magnete , England's first physics book. He was one of the pioneers in the study of electricity from the electrostatics, and a fierce opponent of the scholastic method and Aristotelian theories in the Universities of the moment.

Consequences of the Scientific Revolution

The Scientific Revolution meant an important cut with the tradition medieval that, above all, demonstrated the human capacity to apply the intellect to the understanding of the world. It allowed the birth of rationalism and of modern thought, which displaced medieval faith as the ruling principle of human life and society.

But perhaps the greatest consequence that it had has been the formal birth of the sciences, framed in the scientific method and rationalist empiricism. This implies a radical transformation of the world of ideas, allowing the reappearance of knowledge that until a century ago was part of the alchemy Islamic and heretical knowledge.

Contributions of the Scientific Revolution

The dissection of bodies allowed a greater understanding of the human body.

The contemporary world would have been impossible without the Scientific Revolution. Among his main contributions to the understanding we have today of the universe, is it so:

  • The heliocentric model of the Solar System. Through calculation and observation of the firmament with increasingly refined telescopes, the first astronomers showed that the Earth is not the center of the universe around which the Sun revolves, but rather that the Sun is the center of the Solar System and around it rotate the planets, including Earth. This knowledge broke with the religious cosmological order that prevailed during the Middle Ages, and that came from Aristotle himself.
  • Support of atomism over Aristotelian theories of matter. Aristotle thought, in ancient times, that the matter It was a continuous form and it was made up of four elements: air, fire, Water and land, in various proportions. This idea prevailed during the Middle Ages, despite the fact that Democritus, another ancient philosopher, had already formulated the theory atomic. The latter was, during the Scientific Revolution, rescued and improved.
  • Advances in anatomy human and dismissal of Galen's theories. For more than a thousand years the studies of ancient Galen ruled medical knowledge in the West, until the Scientific Revolution arrived. New experiments, dissections and studies applying the scientific method and with new instruments of measurement, allowed a better understanding of the human body and laid the foundations for modern medicine.
  • Separation of chemistry from alchemy. The chemistry was formally born during this period, thanks to the first scholars of the matter such as Tycho Brahe, Paracelsus and Robert Boyle, among others.
  • Development of optics. Optics was an enormous advance of the Scientific Revolution, which resulted not only in better knowledge of the behavior of the light, but in better inputs for the scientific investigation, such as telescopes and microscopes, which allowed the observation of the distant stars and the particles microscopic.
  • First experiments with electricity. William Gilbert was one of the first to dedicate himself to the experimentation and recording of electrical principles, even inventing the Latin word electricus, derived from elektron ("Amber" in Greek). Thus he discovered the electrical properties of many different materials, such as sulfur, wax or glass, and made enormous advances in the field of electricity Y magnetism, who founded entire fields of study of physics.
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